SOGSR MSPH students after pinning

SOGSR Ph.D. candidates after White Coat Ceremony

Ph.D. and MSPH White Coat and Pinning Ceremonies Held August 15, 2014

When you come to Meharry, as a student, you will undoubtedly make many new friends, see old friends and acquaintances and maybe meet alumni from your alma mater that you never knew.

That’s exactly what happened to first-year Ph.D. candidates, Aparecio Peggins, Benem-Orom Davids and Kenneth Harris who slipped into their white coats during the White Coat Ceremony of the School of Graduate Studies and Research (SOGSR) Friday, August 15, 2014.

Peggins, Davids and Harris are all graduates of Morehouse College, they all grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and now they are all studying for their Doctor of Philosophy degree together. Davids graduated from Morehouse in 2011, Harris in 2013 and Peggins in 2014. None of them knew each other while at Morehouse but, after meeting at Meharry, they agree they have a lot in common.

“Originally I wanted to go to PWI (Private White Institution),” said Peggins. “But, being at Morehouse showed me the significance of an HBCU. It allowed me to be around like-minded individuals and put everything into perspective. I knew Meharry would be a good place to prosper in the next stage of my life.”

The Morehouse Men's Club

Bobby Jones, M.S., though not a graduate of Morehouse, has become an honorary member of the “Morehouse Men’s Club.” He too, is a Ph.D. candidate and said he was honored when his turn came to put on his white coat at the SOGSR White Coat Ceremony. Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Jones received his Bachelor of Science degree in biology, in 2010, from The University of Alabama At Birmingham. In 2014, he obtained his Master of Arts degree, also in biology, from Fisk University.

Meharry’s Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research is what brought Jones to Meharry. “Since I decided early in my studies that I wanted a career in AIDS research,” said Jones. “The AIDS program at Meharry is first-rate. I’m in this field of study, not for the glory, not for fame and not for the recognition. I simply want to be a part of the cure.”

The four men say their group and friendship is strong. They all feel they have become closer and closer each day, attending the same classes, studying together and hanging out. It’s going to be a good journey.

Tamkeenat Syed, MHS' 14Tamkeenat Syed, MHS ’14, will have the distinction of earning dual degrees in 2018. With her MHS degree from Meharry under her belt, Syed will receive two more degrees from the college in May 2018—her MSPH degree from the School of Graduate Studies and Research and a Doctor of Medicine degree from the School of Medicine. Syed received her white coat at the School of Medicine’s White Coat Ceremony in the morning and her MSPH pin from the SOGSR at their Pinning Ceremony in the afternoon.

A native of Chicago, Syed graduated from Emory University in 2010 with a degree in neuroscience behavioral biology and theater studies. In 2011, she went back to Chicago and worked as a fitness instructor for inner city children in a program called “Stretch and Grow.” Through this program, she became interested in public health and made the decision to come to Meharry. While serving as a coach/fitness instructor at “Stretch and Grow,” Syed was teaching, training and disciplining youth on nutrition, exercise, hygiene, sleep and emotional health. “I became aware of the crumbling state of the gyms in the elementary schools and lack of resources for children’s health in Chicago,” she said. Syed observed disparities in the body mass index among children in diverse communities as well as the early onset of chronic diseases among marginalized children. “This led me to ask a few questions in regard to health disparities due to the actions of the system and not necessarily the people,” Syed said. “I involved myself in social justice programs, such as the Inner City Muslim Action Network in Chicago and was invited, and recruited, to serve on the board of Rationale, a research-oriented and scholarship granting non-profit grassroots organization that partners with communities in Gulu Uganda.” Syed stated that Rationale is highly concerned with social benefit and equity on a global scale.

The reason she chose Meharry is because of its mission. “There is a level of accountability to our choices and neglect of vulnerable persons is not an option for me,” said Syed. “It's not simply about serving, but providing the marginalized communities access to the tools necessary for communal self-worth and education so that there is an ownership of their health.”

Citing Canadian physician, William Osler, M.D.’s quote, “One of the first duties of the physician is to educate the masses not to take medicine,” Syed is an unwavering believer in preventative medicine. “Preventative education in the field of medicine would mean a significant decrease in the rising costs of health care, a lessening of demand for treatment resources and ease to the working demands of health care professionals,” she said. Syed believes, “If medical institutions can train its students to think alongside of improving the health status instead of treating illnesses, staying cognizant of the contemporary health trends and developing the skills to come up with sensible solutions, then health gaps will lessen and health disparity will soon be obsolete.”

Syed further said, “For Meharry Medical College to offer a joint program [MSPH/M.D.] is a step in the right direction to building and maintaining an effective American health system and I am honored to be a part of it.”

There were six Ph.D. students who received their white coats, one from Alabama, one from Tennessee, one from South Carolina, one from North Carolina and two from Georgia.

There were 22 MSPH students who received their pins at the MSPH Pinning Ceremony. They hail from the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New York and Tennessee.